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Meet ‘America’s Sweethearts’ in new Netflix documentary series

Published Jun 16th, 2024 6:33PM EDT
Dallas Cowboys cheerleader
Image: Sam Hodde/Getty Images

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The Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad — with those million-dollar smiles, the big hair, high kicks, and iconic blue and white uniforms — is made up of members who look like supermodels and perform like athletes.

That’s how the young women are described early on in the new Netflix docuseries America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. But Greg Whiteley, who directed the seven-episode series that debuts on June 20, also goes to great lengths to showcase the individuality inherent throughout the squad, culminating in a moving sequence at the end of the series with closeups of the cheerleaders removing their makeup and fake eyelashes to then gaze directly into the camera. 

“The women are impressive when you see them all in a kick line — they’re in a row and they’re beautiful, athletic, and strong,” Whiteley, who also directed the Netflix docuseries Last Chance U and Cheer, said in an interview with the streamer. “They seem impenetrable. I think that is made even more impressive when you realize that there’s a living, breathing human being underneath that facade.

“Along the way, as a handful of these girls really began to open up about their lives to us, I just found them as an organization and as a group to be even more impressive. I think that became a visual metaphor for that journey that we went on with them.”

His Netflix series thus aims to penetrate the pretty, bubbly, all-American veneer of the squad and to underscore the grueling work and hustle behind the smiles. America’s Sweethearts follows the squad — led by longtime director Kelli Finglass — throughout the 2023-24 NFL season, with many of the women opening the doors to their homes to reveal the personal stories that the public doesn’t get to see.

The squad’s story extends from auditions and training camps all the way through the NFL season, which finds the women performing for more than 90,000 fans at all Cowboys home games in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Among other things, viewers will also get a sense from the Netflix series about how the team’s squad really revolutionized NFL cheerleading by setting a new standard of glamor, style, and athleticism (for more on the team’s history, check out Texas Monthly’s excellent podcast, America’s Girls).

Most people might not be aware of the fact that not only is it incredibly difficult to make it onto the team; even veterans have to try out all over again every single year.

“You could argue they’re the number-one group of professional cheerleaders in the world, and I’m not even sure who’s second,” Whiteley tells Netflix. “But that doesn’t necessarily make for a great story. A lot of times when you’re in their homes, it was an invitation to see what their life was really like. It never occurred to me that they had to have other jobs to pay the bills.

“All of them fall into a certain age category where they’re beginning to ask some of the bigger questions of life. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? Especially, what am I going to do now that I’m done being a DCC, which was the story of Caroline Sundvold. She was the face of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Now she’s retired, and what’s next?”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.